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A Film You Will Never Forget; Masterful From The First Minute Until The Last,
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This review is from: The Bridge on the River Kwai (Limited Edition) (DVD)
Richly deserving its 1957 "Best Picture" Academy Award, "The Bridge On The River Kwai" is truly one of the best motion pictures I have ever seen (and I had never seen it even once until just a few days before writing this review).
Directed expertly by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel, "The Bridge On The River Kwai" never falters. From the very first well-composed "CinemaScope" frame, right through to its exciting climax, everything about this motion picture is spot-on perfect.
The film tells the World War 2 story of a group of British P.O.W.s who are handed the assignment of constructing a railway bridge across the Kwai river, deep within an Asian jungle in the hot and steamy summer of 1943.
Each actor in this movie shines brightly in his respective part -- beginning with Alec Guinness' absolutely wonderful award-winning portrayal of "Colonel Nicholson", who undergoes more than his fair share of torture and abuse at the hands of the Japanese "Colonel Saito" (played by Sessue Hayakawa). Guinness' Nicholson is a man guided by an immovable set of rigged principles. And he ends up winning his battle of nerves (and torture) against his Japanese enemy. A truly remarkable performance by Mr. Guinness. It's no wonder he was nominated for the "Best Actor" Oscar for his role in this film. And, rightfully so, he won the award as well.
The great William Holden (age 38 here) earned a healthy 1-million-dollar salary for his part as "Shears" in the movie (plus he got a portion of the film's box-office receipts too). And he earned every cent, as far as I'm concerned. While his part is not quite as deeply-layered or extensive as Alec Guinness' in the picture, Holden's character is still a vital and integral part of the film, as he plays a soldier who sets out on a mission to destroy the River Kwai bridge.
Jack Hawkins rounds out the main cast, as "Major Warden", the hard-nosed leader of the Allied Commando team assigned to blow up the just-finished Kwai railway bridge.
An interesting thing hit me a day after I finished watching this movie for the first time -- I found myself re-living portions of the film over again in my head, and (of course) found myself whistling the unforgettably-sensational "River Kwai March" theme tune (aka "Colonel Bogey March"), which is something that's likely to stay with you for quite a long time. (The DVD Menus make sure you won't forget the melody either.)
Plus, the day after I saw it, I also found myself already beginning to appreciate the "timelessness" and award-winning flavor and grandeur of this epic-scale motion picture. And I even felt a strong desire to watch the whole 162-minute film all over again the very next day. When a movie can have that much impact on a viewer, what better compliment can there be to emphasize its greatness?
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment released the 2-Disc edition of "The Bridge On The River Kwai" on November 21, 2000, and it's a great-looking DVD in all respects, in my opinion. Sporting a beautiful and colorful Anamorphic Widescreen print of the film, Disc One of this two-disc set contains the full-length film in its original CinemaScope aspect ratio of approximately 2.55:1. The lush quality of the photography shines through brilliantly here via this nice, crisp-looking Widescreen version. I'd hate to think of having to watch this movie in a hacked-to-pieces Pan-&-Scan Full-Screen version. Luckily, such torture is not required here, because the original Widescreen format is available on this DVD.
There are multiple Dolby Digital soundtracks to choose from for the movie -- a 5.1 Surround track plus a 2.0 Surround option as well. Both of these tracks sound very good to me. Lots of subtitling options are available as well, plus an "Isolated Music Score" soundtrack too.
Several fulfilling bonus features take up residence on Disc #2, including a nicely-done 53-minute Making-Of documentary, as well as an original 1950s-era vintage behind-the-cameras featurette ("The Rise And Fall Of A Jungle Giant"), which has a satisfying old-time "nostalgic" feel to it.
While I very much enjoyed the "Jungle Giant" mini-featurette (which lasts for a little more than 6 minutes) for its unique behind-the-scenes type of footage -- I couldn't help but scratch my head in bewilderment when the final portion of the program seemingly is cut off abruptly without explanation. The narration and video build the viewer's suspense, taking us right up to the brink of the dramatic one-take-only scene of the bridge being blown to bits, then there's a splice in the film just prior to seeing any behind-the-scenes stuff of the actual detonation, with the film then trailing off into its closing few seconds (an "epilogue" of sorts). Very odd I thought. Makes me wonder if that bridge-blowing sequence was somehow lost and not able to be recovered for some reason.
Additional DVD Extras --- A "USC Short Film" (with an introduction by William Holden), which runs for just under 16 minutes. This is a kind of a "lesson" in filmmaking techniques, with "The Bridge On The River Kwai" used as an example of what goes into feature filmmaking. Lots of behind-the-scenes footage on the sets of "Kwai" is included here.
Another featurette on Disc 2 is "An Appreciation By Filmmaker John Milius". This is an 8-minute "appreciation" of "The Bridge On The River Kwai" by Mr. Milius, as he provides his personal thoughts on the film and its impact on him. Needless to say, he loves the movie. And his comments here are quite interesting too.
There are also four Theatrical Trailers included as DVD bonus material (including one for "River Kwai"). Plus -- A 7-minute "Photo Montage" (on a musically-scored timed track, with "Pause" capability enabled). The "montage" was a slight disappointment to this writer, simply because it only includes photos of poster art and advertising materials for the film. No "publicity stills" are included at all. Which is kind of odd because a few such items are seen within the Making-Of documentary. Still, the filmed montage is done very nicely, with appropriate underscoring to add atmosphere.
Rounding out this healthy batch of DVD supplements is a "Talent Files" section, featuring brief text-only bios on five members of the "Kwai" cast and crew.
Also included as part of the 2-Disc "Limited Edition" DVD package is a collectible 12-page booklet, which is a replica (reprint) of the original 1957 souvenir book. The last page of the booklet is a DVD Scene Selection guide for the film's 40 chapters.
"The Bridge On The River Kwai" took more than a full year to film and edit, finally making its debut in movie theaters on December 18, 1957. But that year spent in the Asian jungle was definitely worth it. Because what resulted from that strenuous year of sweat and gritty filmmaking was a true cinematic masterwork.
So, take this DVD for a spin soon .... and then watch yourself replaying much of the movie in your head the next day. For this is a DVD to treasure; and a movie to remember. For all time.
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Initial post: Jun 15, 2012 12:16:41 PM PDT
Cathryn Troise says:
I, too, had that same morning-after experience of replaying segments of the film in my mind. Tantalizing and as you say, a great tribute to a great film, not seen by me since the year of its release! A fellow film buff friend of mine prefers to analyze 'Kwai' from a different perspective, eg. the questionable ethics of allies 'aiding' the Japanese, which to me is questionable critiqueing! The film is as near-perfect as a film dealing with the intricacies of war can be, and works on many wondrous levels. Thanks for the great review!
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